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Anonymous Source Reveals WWII Footage Of Top-Secret British Code Breakers

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Madison Dapcevich

Staff Writer

clockApr 7 2020, 03:53 UTC

Men and women both worked at Bletchley Park during World War II in an effort to crack enemy codes and deploy information to M16 and high-ranking government officials. Public Domain

A rare black-and-white film documenting life at one of the most top-secret World War II efforts has been revealed by an anonymous source, providing a “rare glimpse” into the lives of those with some of the most secretive jobs during the war effort.

The 11-minute silent film is the only known footage of life at Whaddon Hall at Bletchley Park, the wartime home of the Government Code and Cypher School. It was here that a small team of code-cracking specialists eventually grew to a wide intelligence factory of thousands of men and women whose technological advancements led to the creation of the German Enigma and Lorenz ciphers, as well as the world’s first programmable digital electric computer, Colossus.

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“No other film footage of a site intimately connected with Bletchley Park exists. We don’t know who filmed it and the footage doesn’t give away any state secrets or any clues about the work the people in it are doing. If it fell into the wrong hands, it would have given little away, but for us today, it is an astonishing discovery and important record of one of the most secret and valuable aspects of Bletchley Park’s work,” said Dr David Kenyon, research historian at Bletchley Park, in a press release.

Life at Bletchley Park was kept as secretive as the codes its inhabitants cracked. Because of this, photos and videos of daily life were banned. The footage was preserved in its original canister and donated to the organization by a donor who wishes to remain anonymous. Mostly shot in black-and-white, it shows M16 Section VIII staff in what is believed to be a compilation of footage recorded between 1939 and 1945, including men and women on duty at Whaddon Hall and footage of a football game as well as a cricket match.

The film was authenticated by consulting Geoffrey Pidgeon, a World War Two veteran who started working for the effort at the age of 17. His grandfather, who worked at the station for five years, is one of the people identified in the film.

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"I’d never seen my father on a cinefilm before," said Mr Pidgeon. “I was very surprised and moved to watch it for the first time. It’s a remarkable find.”

Others include Brigadier Richard Gambier-Parry, head of SIS Section VIII, based at Whaddon Hall, as well as First Engineer Bob Hornby and Stores Officer Ewart Holden. Others have not been identified and anyone who may recognize someone in the film is encouraged to contact enquiries@bletchleyparlk.org.

Bletchley Park is currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic but Codebreakers is offering virtual tours of the grounds and archives. The entire documentary can be watched on YouTube.

A Colossus Mark 2 codebreaking computer being operated by Dorothy Du Boisson (left) and Elsie Booker (right) in 1943. Public Domain

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